Blagovescensk, Russia

  • Date
  • 14 July 1999

For dinner, we ate at an outdoor café overlooking the river that connects Siberia to Heihe, China. The Chinese side of the river is packed with tall new buildings and cranes constructing even newer buildings. On the Russian side, I see an old crumbling vodka factory and several dilapidated apartment buildings.

The café, in a great location for viewing strollers along the river, lacked the energy of the café we visited last night. Perhaps because only three or four tables were filled versus the packed place of the night before.

Here, the waiter brought us an extensive menu filled with pages of offerings, but when we questioned about availability of several dishes, he kept recommending chicken cordon bleu. Finally we asked to see the chef to find out what could be prepared. The chef said he could make chicken filet surprise, beef stroganoff and chicken cordon bleu. So much for a menu 20 pages thick!

The highlight of the evening came when the chef asked what I’d like for my garnish. I asked my options and he replied, “French fries, no rice.” I laughed and asked Sergei to translate again. The chef repeated, “French fries, no rice.” Guess what I ordered for my garnish.

We all began dinner with cucumber and tomato salads. For entrees, Sergei, our translator, and I ordered the cordon bleu, Jim chicken filet surprise and Fredrik, our webmaster, beef stroganoff. The food was fabulous, but unfortunately the temperature was so oppressive, my healthy appetite was dampened and I ate less than half of my food.

We stayed for a while longer and watched people walking along the river bank. Just before we left, we met two locals who work in a close-by casino. Both were 22 years old. One was divorced, after getting married at 18, and now lives with a boyfriend. The other, never married, lives with her boyfriend as well.A view of Heihe, China from just across the river in Blagovescensk